Monday, December 31, 2007

Cruising, part 7

So, the second last day of the cruise. Well, I guess third, as we get into port on January 2nd. However, we’re going to try and disembark as early as we can. I see no reason to stay on the boat until noon or so when we could get off around 9 a.m. and then spend the whole day puttering around Fort Lauderdale instead. I think Beowulf is playing at a local theatre in 3-D IMAX, and I would love to see that.

It feels hotter today than it has when we were further south. I understand why, of course. In our other ports of call we had the trade winds, air conditioning and a dip in the ocean to keep us cool. On the boat you still have the air conditioning, but most of the places where you would lie out in the sun is shaded from the wind. So it’s very easy to roast. I tried lying out and getting a tan for a bit today. I lasted about 40 minutes and cried uncle. Yes, the Vitamin D is lovely and all, but I was beginning to feel like a roasted pig. As for dipping in the ocean, well, I think they frown on that when we’re moving at 20 knots. And the pools are, of course, packed.

There was also a hairiest chest contest on-board today. I take great comfort in knowing I wouldn’t have won if I entered.

The other highlight...flying fish. I don’t know how we didn’t notice them before, but there are schools of flying fish racing alongside the ship for short bursts. I know people down here think nothing of them. It would be like me making a big deal of seeing a cod. But they’re kind of cool to watch. It’s like they’re surfing on air for short bursts of time before wiping out into an ocean swell.

It also brought back a memory of when we were in St. Kitt’s. I went to a little place on the beach looking for some food. A woman next to me asked the counterperson what kind of fish was in the fish sandwich. Apparently it was flying fish. I had the image of the woman trying to take a bite of the sandwich and the fish making a break from the bun and flying off to the ocean.

Yes, my brain in strange.

This evening, of course, is New Years. That means I suspect very few of you are reading this right now. But hey, I write because I like it. They have some things planned, but it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of activities going on. A party on the upper deck starting at 11 p.m. A formal supper and a few other activities. We’ll be celebrating New Year’s somewhere off the coast of Cuba. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, although some part of me wishes we were back in Newfoundland for our traditional New Years at Anne’s (now Karin and Andrew’s). The warmth is nice and all, but it would be good to have some family and friends around to celebrate New Year’s with.

Anyway, tomorrow I’ll do a wrap up of what we thought of the boat and which islands we would recommend and want to go back and visit again.

I hope you all have a Happy New Years, where ever you are in the world today.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cruising, part 6

Ah Tortola....

I feel a touch like an idiot for not knowing Tortola is the biggest island in the British Virgin Islands. It feels like one of those things I really ought to have known, or perhaps did know, but just forgot. Regardless, it wasn’t until we hit the tourist information booth today did we realize where we were.

I’d feel like an idiot if Cathy hadn’t told me about the conversation she overheard at the gift shop yesterday. A lady was arguing with one of the sales clerks about how many sea days there were after Tortola. The lady said it was one; the clerk two. After realizing the clerk might indeed have a better idea than she did, the lady apparently ran off to her room to call her travel agent to fix her tickets home.


Anyway, Tortola certainly started off like it was going to be a bad day. It’s the longest island stop of the cruise, but we’re at the island on a Sunday when everything is closed. And to add to matters, our sea kayaking adventure was cancelled because of high winds. So there we were on the dock at 8:45 a.m. with suddenly nothing to do.

We opted for a tour of the island. It turned out to be better than I expected, with lots of local information and plenty of stunning views. Tortola makes San Francisco or St. John’s like prairie. It’s also the first time I’ve feared for my life in a vehicle since the Pacific Coast Highway last year. You go up and down several hundred feet in a matter of minutes, around blind hairpin turns and with new roads appearing from nowhere. No one appears to wear a seatbelt either.

But we didn’t see any accidents or bodies, so I guess they know what they’re doing. All the Caribbean islands have volcanic origins, but you really feel it with Tortola.

When the tour finished around noon, we decided to head to one of the sister islands of Tortola. You can easily see dozens from the high points in Tortola, little islands scattered all over the place. We went to Virgin Gorgola (I think that’s the spelling) which reputed had this amazing beach. So we hopped on a ferry and went over.

The reputation was worth it. It’s not one of the typical Caribbean beaches, with vendors all over the place and miles of sandy beach. There was a beach, but also plenty of large rocks sheltering the place. It was like a Newfoundland beach, in someways, except the water was warm and you could actually see the ocean bottom.

I finally found the Caribbean beach they advertise in all those commercials. It really was crystal clear waters. We’re kind of kicking ourselves for not going there first thing in the morning. We only really got to spend an hour splashing around before having to head back. We didn’t even have snorkeling gear with us. It’s the first time we’ve kicked ourselves for doing the wrong thing on the cruise. It really was a lovely beach.

And now we’re heading back to Fort Lauderdale. We arrive back in port on January 2. Time she flies like a fruit, my friends....

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cruising, part 4 and 5

We had technical difficulties yesterday...Carnival wouldn’t let us log on using the laptop, which meant no posting from this computer. So today it’s a two-for-one blog post. Below is yesterday’s post. So any reference to “today” actually means for the 28th.

As for today, we were in St. Kitt’s. Not much in the way of exploring for this place, nor can I really speak much about it. We got off the ship, hopped in a sea taxi, which zipped us over to a beach about 10 minutes away. And from there we sat on a beach for several hours. It was nice. Yes, we can laze around the boat all we want, but there is something to be said about roaming around on a beach and taking a dip in the Caribbean Sea to cool off a bit. We also managed to not get burned, through judicious use of sun screen and an umbrella. However, I think we did manage to get some colour, so the people in Nunavut won’t give me grief about going to the Caribbean and not getting a tan.

I’ve never really been laying out in the sun and getting a tan. I tend to get bored too quick. And even with my iPod and a fresh book (Hornsby’s “Slam”) I still felt the urge to roam up the beach and go hunting for shells and take pictures.

As for impression of the’s seems more...domesticated than St. Lucia. Granted, we only saw a small part of the island, but there seemed to be more wealth kicking around as we saw quite a few expensive houses and cars. And there didn’t seem to be any imminent danger of the jungle taking over at any given moment.

And there are monkeys. I know this because we had several people offering to let the monkey crawl around me, and then someone to take my picture for a few dollars. I declined, mainly because the monkey’s, very small ones, never looked particularly happy.

Tomorrow is Tortola and then two days on the ocean to get back to Fort Lauderdale. We’ve been looking forward to this vacation for so long and it just seems to be flying by at warp speed.


So, St. Lucia today and the first of our paid excursions. We’re only doing two on this cruise. On Tortola we’re going sea kayaking. Today we had the bright idea to go on a zip line tour of a rain forest.

I don’t know who came up with the idea of doing this...sending people up into the canopy of a rainforest, lay about 5 pounds of gear and straps on their body, hook them to a thin line and then push them off the edge of a perfectly good tree. Whoever did come up with it was either a madman or a genius. But whatever the verdict, there’s no denying it’s a hell of a lot of fun. We managed to not make fools out of ourselves, although I discovered that it is very hard to swoop on the zip line and take photos at the same time. Pity, really.

Also, there wasn’t a lot to photograph. St. Lucia doesn’t appear to have a lot of native wildlife. Some snakes and birds, but certainly none of the really interesting and weird things you might see in Costa Rica, where we were thinking of going earlier this year.

No, the feeling you get in St. Lucia is green. Overwhelming, pervasive green. Not much in the way of riotous colour. Maybe we were there simply at the wrong time of the year. But instead what we saw was unending green.

Don’t get me wrong. We love the green. After all the snow in Nunavut, green is good. Green is amazing. And while I forgot to do it in St. Maarten, I did manage to get around to hugging a tree today. Granted, it happened when I failed to break properly coming to the end of a particularly long and fast stretch on the zip line and kind of hit the tree. Still, I welcomed its embrace. It was a good tree.

Our tour guide told us there is about 126,000 people on St. Lucia, which is weird when you consider the island is small - about 16 miles across, about 40 miles north to south. Nunavut has about 1,000,000 million square miles and 30,000 people. So that’s a lot of people with very little land to go around.

And yet, it never feels like the people are winning. When we sailed out of Castries this evening, you could look back and see far more trees than houses. It was like that when driving to the rain forest on the eastern part of the island. You would see houses, but they would be surrounded by trees. There were no lawns to speak of.

The humans are winning, but you get the feeling it could still go either way. Give the green of the island a few years without any humans around and they would make quick work of all traces of human settlement.

It’s a beautiful place. It hardly seems fair to judge it against St. Maarten. We saw little of that island aside from the market area. But we both really like St. Lucia. I could see us coming back some time in the future to visit for longer than a day.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cruising, part 3

I don’t know how big Phillipsburg in St Maarten is, but imagine what happens when not one, not two, but five cruise ships hit town at once. And the monstrosity we’re on, which has 2,000 passengers and another 1,000 in crew, wasn’t even the biggest. Only four could fit at the wharf, so the fifth ship had little boats running back and forth between it and a wharf. To say that the place was madness was an understatement.

Here’s the apparent appeal of Phillipsburg. In the downtown area, right next to the beach are literally hundreds of shops. Some sell tourist kitsch. Some sell really tacky tourist kitsch (when you’re selling five t-shirts for $10, you’re not expecting high quality or creative). And then there’s the rest, which is where the real feeding frenzy takes place.

There’s no duty on items in St. Maarten. Nor is there any sales tax. So there are dozens of jewelry, liquor and electronics stores, all clamoring for your business. It’s a touch on the crazy side. But if you’re looking for deals, I have to admit it is an impressive place to visit.

Cathy was pretty good and managed to not buy that much. I wasn’t as successful, picking up a nice Swiss Army Knife and a pair of Bose headphones. I hemmed and hawed about the headphones. I even walked away for several hours, just to make sure I wanted them, but I broke down in the end. I put them on when I got back on board and selected a random song...”Are you all right?” by Lucinda Williams.

These are the single greatest thing I have ever bought for my ears. Dear God, you can’t hear a thing except the music. The rest of the world just disappears like magic and there’s nothing but the song. Beautiful.

We’re on our way to St. Lucia where we’re going on a canopy adventure tomorrow morning. We’re both really looking forward to that. I mean, the shopping was nice, but we didn’t see any of the island. It’ll be nice to get away from the crowds and go soaring through trees.

Tonight, we’re going to have the surreal experience of watching Jaws while on-board a cruise ship. They’ve been showing movies the last couple of nights. Last night it was Raiders of the Lost Ark. I sat up in the balcony and watched the movie. Behind me, a couple of kids who had never seen the movie before oohed and ahhed at all the right moments. All that was missing was the popcorn.

This is something rattling around in my head. I didn’t have the computer with me last night when it was coming to me, so here’s hoping it survived the 24 hour delay.

It’s about 9 p.m. and I’m on the 9th deck. Cathy’s in the room, trying to sleep off a vicious bout of nausea. She’s taken pills, but they haven’t worked much. Me sitting in the room staring at her with a worried look is just annoying her, so it’s out of the room I go.

There are any number of things to do on board the ship in the evenings. I could catch a Motown singer at the Phantom Lounge. There’s a small casino on-board. There are several lounges where someone is playing the piano. Hell, even some of the hot tubs are still going.

But I find I like the 9th deck, the Lido Deck, at this time of the evening. During the day, it’s packed with sun worshippers and kids splashing in pools. It’s filled with people eating lunch or snacking on pizza. But once the sun sets around 5 o’clock, people vacate it and head down into the ship. There’s little to do and, as a result, only a few people linger.

It’s nice. It’s quiet. I like it. After all day of being surrounded by hundreds of people making their way here and there aboard the Miracle, the peace and quiet is relaxing.

So I’m sitting at a table, a tuna sandwich from the deli in front of me. My iPod is going and playing Hospital Music by Matthew Good. Not a cheerful album, but it suits my mood fine. I’m looking out the window and for the first time since we left For Lauderdale on Christmas Eve, there are lights out the window. We’re passing by some island. There are also lights of several cruise ships. We’re close. There’s a flash of light, breaking across the blackness between the island and the Miracle. I figure it’s a lighthouse and wait for the light to repeat, but it doesn’t. One flash in the dark and whatever it was is gone.

I look back to my book, which is 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill. I read one of his books earlier the year - Heart Shaped Box - and thought it was about the best ghost story I’ve read since I was a kid. This one is a collection of short stories. Not all of them work, but the ones that do, like “Pop Art”, fills me with awe and makes me want to hit my head off the table at the same time. He’s that damn good.

Then again, Joe is playing a little game. He doesn’t give you the other part of his last name - King. It’s not always an advantage to have a famous parent, but there’s a good chance if you’re smart enough, you might pick up a few tricks from the old man. Joe is obviously smart enough.

It dawns on me at some point that I’m feeling pretty good. Good music, good book, watching an island sail past me in the night and hardly anyone around. It’s almost like I have the entire ship to myself. A realization like that, that you’re having an almost perfect moment can snap you out of it permanently. But then a new song starts, one short story ends and another one is calling out to be read. Outside, lights continue to slowly slide by. I sink back into the moment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cruising, part 2

So the word for today is nausea. The slight choppy seas I mentioned the other day have become slightly larger choppy seas. Forget the pale, nearly translucent blue you see in the pictures. The Caribbean today is a darker blue, almost purple, you might see around Newfoundland with white caps. I got up out of bed this morning and headed to a trivia contest (I finished third) and by the end of it came to the conclusion that this whole being upright thing was vastly over-rated and retreated to the room to lie down. Cathy went out for a bit as well, before reaching the same conclusion and retreating.

I eventually bit the bullet and went to the store on-board and bought some anti-nausea meds. I now feel better, although we’ll see how long that lasts. Long enough to get some lunch down. Now the trick is making sure it stays down. I haven’t thrown-up, which is good. Here’s hoping the trend continues.

I know it’s silly because it’s the open ocean, but I really thought the Caribbean would be smoother sailing. Goes to show what I know when it comes all things seafaring. There’s a reason why I’m a townie and not a bayman.

Anyway, tomorrow we hit St. Maarten, where there are shopping opportunities galore, especially if you believe all the literature being pumped out by the boat’s crew. Handily little maps of places you can go which have met with Carnival’s exacting standards of what makes a good merchant (for which Carnival probably gets a kick-back). Especially if you want to buy gold and jewels. There must be about a half dozen diamond exchanges near the dock where we disembark. It never ends. Still, it’ll be nice to hit land and now weave like a drunken sailor every time I try to stand-up.

Today’s on-board observation is the number of teenagers on the Miracle. They’re not annoying me, which is impressive really. But it is interesting to see how many of them are here with their girlfriends/boyfriends. I was ironing a shirt last night (supper was a formal affair) and was chatting with a teenage boy around 16 who was doing the same, trying to look impressive for his girlfriend. And we’ve seen plenty of teenagers who are obviously couples.

All I’m saying is that if I were 16 years old, a cruise ship in the Caribbean with my girlfriend would be a pretty cool place to be. I think that would be a fun vacation. As long as I didn’t have a Jewish mother. Because man, there are a bunch of them on-board. And I’ve watched plenty of TV shows and movies with Jewish moms and I thought it was just bad writing and exaggerating a cliche. But they seem to be pretty much on the mark. It’s kind of scary to watch them in action, they’re that intimidating. Puts Catholic mothers to shame, and that’s saying something.

By the way, we have taken plenty of photos, but given the slow Internet speeds on board (makes Iqaluit look fast), and how much time we have purchased, those pics will have to wait until later.

Enjoy your Boxing Day sales.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blog cruising, part 1

So we’re aboard the Miracle right now, going through some mild chop on our way down to St. Maarten. The chop isn’t severe, but as this is my first time on a boat in quite awhile, it’s taking me a bit to get used to. It’s a big damn boat. I’m sure it would be worse if the boat was smaller, but since it’s bloody huge, there’s just the occasional disoriented moment as the boat rocks back and forth.

This is our first cruise, so it’s a touch on the weird side for both of. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice ship, the crew is doing a good job and once you get past the fact that it’s nearly impossible to not spend money on this thing, you’re fine.

I thought Disney was bad for the psychology involved in trying to get you to part with your money. But Carnival has obviously learned from the masters and improved upon them. The whole idea of giving you a card where you charge all of your expenses and you don’t have to pay them until the end of the cruise. It’s devious, I have to admit. I suspect more than one person has hit the end of the cruise, looked at their bill and had a small stroke. We’re trying our best to go spend into oblivion, but you do have to remind yourself to be careful.

Then again, there are clearly people here who are not hurting for money. At all. Even in the slightest.

The other thing is that today is Christmas. The only other day I can think of that was less like Christmas than today was back in ’96 when I was in South Korea. I had arrived two weeks before Christmas, and while there is a growing Christian population, most of the country isn’t. So aside from some ex-pat teachers gathering at our apartment for supper, it wasn’t much of a holiday.

We’re seeing the same thing here. There are a few people wearing hats. There’s a bit of Christmas music and whatnot. Last night saw a Christmas performance on the main stage, but dancers in red velvet mini-skirts, while hos of a sort, aren’t filling me with the spirit of the season. But the boat isn’t really decorated and you have to strain to know it’s anything other than just another day.

It’s nice and all and don’t get me wrong. I’ll take this over whatever the temperature in Iqaluit is right now. It’s just...strange. I also feel sad for the crew. Having to work away from their families on Christmas must suck.

Strangest moment so far...sitting in the lunch room with about six different buffets on the go when “Do they know its Christmas?” begins playing over the speakers. There’s something deeply wrong with hearing the lyric “Feed the world...” with about 2,000 people eating food on a luxury cruise.

Oh, and there is internet access. It’s just slow, very expensive and despite promises of wifi, we can’t access it from our room. This is actually being written in a Word document and cut and pasted into blogger. In other words, don’t expect daily updates on the blog.

We don’t have anything planned for St. Maarten yet...I think we just plan to poke around and do some twacking (window shopping for the non-Newfoundlanders). In St. Lucia we’ve booked a canopy tour, which should be fun. St. Kitt’s is up in the air. I think we might just sit on a beach. And in Tortola, we’re going sea kayaking.

Anyway, more updates and observations as I think of them Hope you’re al enjoying your holidays, where ever you happen to be.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

One more before the boat

On the off-chance anyone is reading this and not doing Christmas things, here's one last update before we board the boat tomorrow. After that, it's anyone's guess whether or not I'll be updating the blog. But here are a few observations from the past few days:

1. Disney World was about what we expected...that is to say a complete madhouse. A Saturday a couple of days before Christmas? Lunacy. Still, it was fun because we set our own pace and didn't try and rush through it and get on all the rides. We did manage to get on most of the ones we wanted, excepted Space Mountain. Unfortunate, but the line-up was retarded.
2. One day, when whatever mad scientist completes his experiment (ie. Disney World) I hope I'm still alive to see what his/her conclusions are. I think they will be fascinating.
3. Trying to go to Sawgrass Mills, one of the largest shopping areas in Florida, on the Sunday right before Christmas? We've had smarter ideas. We eventually gave up and fled in terror.
4. I never would have thought it would be so goddamn hard to find a bookstore in Florida, but it is. Unless you're looking for a Christian bookstore. There's oodles of them. Real bookstores? Not so much.
5. Cathy finally got to go to an IHOP. You've never seen blueberry pancakes make a person so happy in their entire life.
6. We've been wished a Happy Holidays a lot around here. Merry Christmas? Not so much.

And now, for the story of the nagging bitch.

As an early Christmas gift, I got Cathy a Garmin 250. This is a GPS device with all the road maps of North America programmed into it. This might seem like a silly device to buy, given that we live in Iqaluit (although the city map for Iqaluit is programmed in), but I thought it might be useful for Florida. Plus, you can buy upgrades, so if we go to Italy next year, we can buy that. And it's small enough to take around in your hand with you. For those wondering why I would give this to her, whenever we get a car on vacation, I end up driving, Cathy navigates. I thought this might make her life easier rather than pouring over maps.

Anyway, the bloody thing is a lifesaver. I suspect we would have been lost a lot more times than we have over the last few days if we didn't have that thing in the car with us, although it really likes freeways too much, especially toll highways (What is it with this state and all the goddamn tolls?). The problem is, we think it's developing sentience.

Seriously, you can nearly hear the contempt in its little electronic voice when it goes "Recalculating" after we've made a wrong turn and it has to give us new directions. And it nags. "Turn right, Turn Right. Turn right now, goddamn it!" (I might have made that last part up). But it's bossy and demanding. And I suspect it's no coincidence that the people who programmed it gave it a female voice.

Anyway, myself and Cathy have taken to calling it, "the nagging bitch." As in, "fire up the bitch and see where the hotel is, will you?" And so on, and so forth.

Of course, the bitch will likely have the last laugh. Forget Skynet, Garmin GPS devices are going to gain sentience one day, and every human in a car is going to crash like lemmings all at once. I suspect they could wipe out about a third of the world's population in a few hours. They'll pick off the rest later.

Wonderful device, but very scary.

Anyway, if you've read this blog over the year, thanks for swinging by. I honestly appreciate it, even those of you who have annoyed me. And I hope you all have a good Christmas. Or a happy holidays.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Florida death march

Cathy and I never mean to do death marches. Every vacation we saw to each other, "Now, no death march. We take our time and don't try to cram too much into a single day."

And yet...

So yeah, we accidentally did a death march today. First, we hit Universal studios. We ended up getting the two parks/one day pass, which left a lot of ground to cover. One the upside we had three things going for us. First, the weather was perfect...about 24C all day long with a bit of a breeze. Secondly, crowds were light. I'm not saying the park was abandoned, but it's about as easy a time we had moving around an amusement park in my life. Also helping with getting the Expresspass, which allowed us to blow past much of the lining up.

We liked Islands of Adventure, we didn't care much for Universal Studios. The later seemed to be too much focussed on stores and gift shops and not enough on rides. The Mummy Returns was fun, so was MiB: Aliens Attack. The rest...not so much. Especially Twister, which was incredible boring. There's a ride that needs to be retired badly. Shrek and Terminator were also a bit disappointing.

But Islands of Adventure was a lot of fun. Some really nice roller coasters (although The Hulk might have been a bit much for the first one of the morning) and the Dr. Seuss land was vastly amusing. We like that one a lot.

And after bouncing around two amusement parks, what do we do but some more shopping? We're insane. But hey, you get out of Nunavut, and there are all these bright and sparkly stores. It's irresistible. We're such consumer whores.

Tomorrow, Disney. And maybe more shopping. Oh, and a comic book store.

Oh, and at some point I must tell you all about our wonderful little gadget that has made our life in Florida much easier. We call her "the nagging bitch." But her heart is in the right place.

Right, off to soak tired feet and away to bed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here we are now, entertain us

So we've arrived safe and sound in Florida. No serious mess-ups on the way down. We only got about 4 hours sleep at the hotel in Ottawa because the flight was late coming in, but really, if that's the worst we can complain about, we're doing all right.

I'm writing this from a Day's Inn in Kissammee. Tomorrow we're off to Universal Studio, with probably a trip to Disney on Saturday. And we might try and squeeze some shopping in, but our one brief stop at a mall was fairly horrific. Valet parking at a freaking mall?!

There's plenty of other stories from the road, but they will probably have to wait for another time. Bed is beckoning and I'm operating on very little sleep and we haven't really stopped since 4:30 this morning. So more updates later. But the important thing is we're here, and we're walking around outside in t-shirts. We both laughed coming out of a restaurant when we realized it was nice and warm as opposed to bitter cold.

It's nice. We'll take it....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Due South

First, just for Claire, here's a way to damage your wallet some more - Rolling Stone's 50 top albums of 2007. I think I have about 18 of them.

Anyway, we’re off on a jet planet in a few hours. Ottawa tonight, then back at the airport bright and early tomorrow morning for a trip to Fort Lauderdale, via a brief stopover in Cleveland. I’ve checked all the weather websites and the fickle fates seem to be siding with us. That isn’t taking mechanical problems, drunken pilots or other random x-factors into account, but so far, so good. If all goes well, we hit Fort Lauderdale around 12:30 on Thursday, then rent a car and head off to Orlando for a couple of days, then back to Fort Lauderdale to hop on the cruise ship.

You know, I do understand the advantages of spending a white Christmas this close to the North Pole. We did it a couple of years ago. It’s nice and all. But it’s -48 with windchill as I write this. And while I’m all about cuddling up to Cathy under the mistletoe, sitting on a lounge chair drinking something with fruit in it while being transported to a small Caribbean island sounds marginally more appealing right now.

Normally when I write these “we’re off on vacation posts” that means the blog will be going dark until we get back. However, we’re taking a computer with us, because the hotels are supposed to have high speed internet, as does the cruise ship. Granted, Carnival is taking a page from previous sailors of the Caribbean Sea by engaging in high sea piracy in how much they’re charging for internet access (I think it’s about $60 for 100 minutes), so we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, there may well be updates from the road. Stay tuned to see if we survive our wacky adventures in Florida and the Caribbean.

Last Five
1. Brilliant mistake - Elvis Costello
2. Please forgive me - David Gray
3. Shotgun wedding - Andrew LeDrew
4. The blossoms - Badly Drawn Boy
5. Five days in May - Blue Rodeo*

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blood sports

When it comes to blood sports, few things beat American presidential politics during primary season. This isn’t a startling or revolutionary observation. I’m just saying that for all that people get worked up about provincial or federal politics in Canada, its single A baseball compared to what’s happening in the United States right now.

This is also a special round of blood sport. There is no president running for reelection. There is no vice-president striding into the field. I’m trying to think of the last time something like this has happened. Maybe 1968? So 40 years since there was this type of free-for-all in US presidential politics.

I’ve been chatting about this with a friend of mine in Nebraska since 2004. She was screaming Obama’s name at me ever since he got elected to the Senate. Hell, she might have been doing it before then. I dismissed him running for the presidency and was wrong about that. I dismissed his chances of winning the nomination and yet…

I thought Hillary Clinton had this locked. Even in recent weeks when there was sign of her campaign faltering, I thought it was just the usual pre-election jitters. This happens right before any election (or in this case, series of elections) when the news coverage suddenly starts to reflect a much closer race and the poll numbers tighten.

But yeah, it really seems to be starting to happen. It’s primary season, so God only knows. But the Democrats really do appear to be leaning towards picking Obama. Which I would have no real problem with. Yes, I like the idea of a woman being president, but Hilary leaves me cold. Which I suspect is not an uncommon complaint.

With the Republicans, I have no idea. It’s a mostly unimpressive field, with one candidate after another surging to the front of the pack, until the public then decides to take a closer look at them and throws them back with disgust. It’s Huckabee’s turn right now. Now part of me would love for the Republicans to nominate Huckabee, because I think once America at large gets a good, solid look at him they will recoil with horror making whoever the Democrats nominate that much easier to win. And for the most part, I suspect I would side with Democrats if I lived in the U.S. But it’s the U.S., so it’s entirely possible they could elect Huckabee, which would be terrifying.

It’s not that I oppose some of the hardcore Republican beliefs of smaller government and less taxes. It’s just that’s not what the Republicans are right now. They’re a political party controlled mostly by zealots and religious crusaders. There are people trying to fix that, but they’re out manned and out gunned, but good on them for trying. It’s kind of hard for me to get interested in that kind of party.

Who do I think is going to win? Well, I think I might have to change my pick from Clinton to Obama for the Democrats. If he takes Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which looks entirely possible right now, then he’s just going to ride that momentum right to the finish. What could be interesting is who he picks as his VP. I imagine there would be pressure to pick Hilary, but really, do you want Lady MacBeth as your vice president?

I have no earthly idea who the Republicans will pick. It’s a mystery at this point. I’m kind of thinking Mitt Romney, just because he’s slick and not too offensive, as long as you don’t find slick and a willingness to sell out what you believe in to get elected as offensive. At least it is a more stealthy offensiveness than Huckabee’s or Gulliani. The latter’s presidential run always perplexed me. Did people manage to forget that people in New York were getting ready to have parties for Gulliani's departure once his term as mayor was up? He was reviled on September 10, 2001. And the only people who have more shamelessly used September 11 as a political tool are the current president and vice-president of the US.

So yeah, this is all vastly entertaining stuff. I’m watching it with interest and I’ll be curious to hear what people think when I’m down in the States. It’s one thing to observe it from far away, another thing to hear people talk about it where the action is actually happening.

By the way, for those interested in this sort of thing, the three sites I read are the Daily Kos, Rolling Stone and Andrew Sullivan. The first two are completely pro-Democrat sites. Rolling Stone in particular has savaged just about every candidate except Obama, so it’s no problem to see where their loyalties lie. And I like Sullivan because he’s a fairly common sense Republican. There are plenty of links to follow at all the sites, which I also like.

Anyway, we shall see how it goes. Whoever is elected next can’t possible be worse than Bush. Oh right, I forgot about Huckabee…

Last Five
Victrola - Sean Panting

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winter gear

So we've been cruising near the "special" cold the last couple of days. We consider days colder than -50 "special" cold because it goes from, "hey, this is kind of cold" to "hey, this fucking hurts" kind of cold. These are the days we warn people down south about when they move up here. The ones if you don't dress right for them, you will find yourself in a world of hurt in a hurry. It's not there, but really, -47 with windchill is close enough.

Which makes it a really excellent time for the car battery to be dead and for me to have to walk back and forth to work. This kind of cold is fun in that you have to bundle up right for it, but it also pretty much assure you that you're sweating buckets by the time you get where you're going. Note to self, when I walk to work tomorrow, toss in a towel so I can dry myself off a bit when I get to work.

To some extent myself and Cathy have, well, not rooting for this, but certainly not wishing it away. The thing about temperatures this cold is that you rarely get any snow or severe weather. This kind of cold normally means clear skies. Which means bright sun during the day and clear skies at night. But very cold. Which we can handle as we want to make sure the weather is fine when we leave Wednesday evening. No storms for us, thank you very much.

This kind of cold also means we have to take a few extra precautions with Boo. We haven't been dressing him up to much when he goes outside to do his business this winter in the hopes that a bit of cold might encourage him to speed the process slightly. Don't worry, we never stay out with him long enough so that he's at risk or anything. But right now it's simply to cold. His paws can't handle this kind of cold. And his fur is so fine that it can only protect him for a few minutes.

Which means it's time for his gear.

The coat is hand made and we bought it at the craft fair last month. The boots we bought down south. Watching him trying to walk in this is worth the price of admission, although he's a bit of a Houdini when it comes to his ability to get out of them when he's walking outside. You can probably tell that in this picture, as he's already manage to shed one boot.

Still, Cathy thinks he's about the cutest thing ever in his outfit.

Last Five
1. Rocketman - Elton John
2. Golden feather - Robbie Robertson
3. Another pilot - Hey Rosetta*
4. Daniel (live) - Billy Joel and Elton John
5. Hypnotize - The White Stripes

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hells Bells

I've made no secret that I really don't like telephones all that much. And that dislike is multiplied by a factor of ten when it comes to cell phones. I like new technology. I like gadgets. And yet, I hate cell phones. Others are welcome to sit down and puzzle through all the bells and whistles on them or trying to get the snazziest one on the market. I get one in my hands and I'd just as soon pitch it into a snow bank somewhere.

However, this Christmas Cathy wanted one. Nothing fancy, just a basic cell phone with a dial as you go package. That way when we're travelling we have a phone so our parents can reach us in case of emergency or we can call in case there are problems. We plan on using this phone maybe six times a year.

So, a basic cell phone with a dial as you go package. Sounds really simple, right? No problem.

So of course there have been problems.

I think the thing that annoys me about cell phones is how needless complicated the device can be, plus how exasperatingly complicated cell phone companies make the damn things just so they can nickel and dime you to death. We're dealing with Bell in this case. And while I'm sure people can pop up and say how hideous Bell is to deal with, I guarantee you there are an equal number of horror stories for Rogers or any other cellular provider.

The problem is this...the phone won't work. Oh, it turns on, but we can't make or receive calls. Cathy has spent probably the better part of two hours dealing with three Bell customer service people, each of whom have told her different things. I'm especially fond of the one who said we can't have a pay-as-you go phone to be used in Nunavut or Florida. That pay as you go only works in Ontario or Quebec. If we wanted to use the phone outside those areas, we had to have a monthly plan.

That was about the moment where I was getting ready to tell Cathy to chuck the damn phone in the garbage (Cathy's parents bought it for her as a gift. They specifically asked for a phone that was pay-as-you-go that could be used in Nunavut and anywhere in North America. This is what was sold to them). However, the advice given didn't sound right, so I rechecked Bell's home page, which said what she had just been told was bullshit.

So that was another call back to Bell's "customer service" where another person said what we read on the website was right, that we just needed to upgrade our plan a bit and it should work fine.

Except, of course, the phone doesn't work fine. But we were told it might take 24 hours for the upgrade to work (it says an hour on the website). Also, Bell's customer service line is open from 9 am to 5 pm only. So this is time one of us has to waste at work getting this fixed if it doesn't miraculous work tomorrow.

This is why cell phones are evil. Oh, and don't even get me started on how many times Cathy had to explain to people where Nunavut was. "Is that in Canada?" Are you kidding me? I fucking despair sometimes. These people can't get basic geography straight, so asking them to figure out something as complicated as cell phones and Bell's coverage plans figured might be a bit beyond them.

I'm still tempted to pitch the damn thing into a snow bank, but we shall see how it goes tomorrow.

Last Five
The Bells of Dublin - The Chieftains

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Early Christmas

So today was Christmas, of sorts, at the chateau. Since we're heading south on Wednesday, we had a decision to make about our Christmas gifts. Our parents kindly gave us a nice few gifts this year, so we were left with three options. The first was to take them with us and open them on the cruise ship on Christmas morning. The problem with that is you want to travel as light as possible when you leave the north. Odds are you going to pick up a nice bit of stuff while you're out, taking advantage of the cheaper prices. So unless it's crucial for the vacation, you don't want to take it with you. While we got some great stuff, we really didn't need to take movies down south with us.

Option #2 was to leave the gifts wrapped and we would open them when we came back in January. The problem with that one is there might be things you end up buying twice by accident, or that you might want to buy, but can't be sure the parents haven't already gotten it for you.

So we went for option #3 - early Christmas morning. We decorated one of the larger plants with lights, cooked a turkey, then sat down and opened our gifts. It was nice. Perhaps not as nice as being able to do it on the 25th, but still pretty nice. And hey, we'll still do something nice on the cruise ship as well. I'm kind of curious to see what Christmas will be like on the ship. More than a little surreal, I suspect.

We leave on Wednesday. Cathy is already doing laundry and do pre-packing. Because that's who she is. If it were me, I'd probably start to think about doing some laundry Tuesday evening. Then again, she was always better organized than me.

Anyway, here's hoping we make it to Wednesday without going mad waiting for vacation to start and that the weather is clear and fine all the way to Florida.

Last Five
1. Ain't it fun - Guns 'n Roses
2. Rock and roll star - Oasis
3. The dope - Dandy Warhols
4. My favourite things - John Coltrane*
5. I am waiting - Lindsey Buckingham

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cold venting

So let's see what we have for this evening..

1. Well, it's been awhile since we had any fuckery with the car. I guess I started to get cocky with the security cameras around the building. But there are still ways of being an asshole with only a little bit of work. Last night someone pulled the plug out of the outlet. That meant there was nothing keeping the car battery warm last night.

Ordinarily that would just be a bit of a nuisance. If you're lucky, then the battery is fine anyway. Except it was below -40 last night with windchill, so there wasn't much of a chance the battery was going to survive that. And sadly, since the battery is about seven years old and has run down once already, it's now officially toast. Even a boost couldn't get it going again.

We'll see about replacing it before we go. I have visions of getting a new battery and the same asshole yanking the plug out of the bar again, killing another battery. So we might just tough it out until we get back from vacation and replace it then. And yes, there are security cameras. But really, is it worth it going through the footage and involving the police just to find someone who killed my battery? Probably not.

I wonder if vandalism is going to be a larger problem, what with The Snack just about ready to reopen. There's going to be a lot more traffic in the area again.

2. While the cold killed my battery last night, it didn't managed to kill a little bird that ended up at work today. I don't know how, but someone's pet bird escaped. It's a tropical bird, a parakeet of some kind. It was found on someone's porch this morning, presumably having spent most of the night there. It was dropped of at work and we put a PSA on the local station asking if anyone lost a pet bird. No one's claimed it so far. I have no earthly idea how a tropical bird survived the cold last night. Other than sleeping a lot and having it's feet look a bit swollen, it seems fine. Weirdness. That's one tough bird. One of my co-workers took it home for the weekend and might adopt it if no one steps forward.

3. I guess this blog was pretty much inevitable, especially since I can't find Rantin' and Raven anymore. Which means there's a bit of a void for Nunavummiut to vent anonymously online. This ought to be interesting.

4. I now have a copy of The Chieftains The Bells of Dublin. Thanks Elling.

Last Five
The Bells of Dublin - The Chieftains

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Four links

So let us see some of the links that have caught my eye today.

1. I've never been the biggest Terry Prachett fan in the world. I respect the quality of the work he does, but his books, for the most part, never captured my imagination. With one notable exception - Good Omens. That book, co-written with Neil Gaiman, remains one of my all-time favourites. So the news that he has early onset Alzheimer's is disheartening.

Then again, as Cathy pointed out to me, this is the disease that I'm most afraid of. I'm not saying there are ones I look forward to or prefer. But there's something in particular about Alzheimer's that scares me. Still, reading Prachett's comments, I could only hope that if I am ever diagnosed with that disease that I meet it with half the grace and wit that Prachett is apparently doing.

2. The annual list of stupid warning labels has been released. Really, hard to beat "Warning: Avoid Death". I mean, if I had never read that label, I don't know what I would do in my day to day life.

3. Bill Maher lists his dickheads of the year. Kind of hard to find fault with any of his selections. I especially like the completely insane 25% that will never abandon President Bush, no matter what he does. Although I confess confusion about one omission. If you're going to list dickheads, aren't you missing the obvious by not including Dick Cheney?

4. Rolling Stone lists the 100 best singles of 2007. Once again, I might know about a quarter of them. Of the ones listed there, "Icky Thump" by the White Stripes is probably my favourite, but with a special mention for "Silver Lining" by Rilo Kiley. That's a good little band. They're heavily influenced by Fleetwood Mac, but really, there are a lot worse influences to have. As a pop band, there aren't many better than them when they were on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Missing the Bells

We're updating our iPods a bit for the upcoming trip. Trimming out some stuff that we no longer want. Cathy, for example, begged me to remove the Grease OST and the Best of Abba. I'm still going through mine. I could probably stand to curb some of the Tori Amos I have on there. And there are a couple of other albums that I tend to hit skip when they come on that should probably go. But I always give records a lot of time to grab me. It can take weeks or months before something grabs me. For example, I think it took about three months for Neko Case's Furnace Room Lullaby to grab me. I very nearly sold it at Fred's. And if I had, I would have lost one of my favourite records.

I'm also adding some Christmas music for Cathy. It'll go as soon as we come back next month, but she likes having some Christmas music to listen to during the holidays, which makes sense. Her main one is Roger Whittaker's Christmas with Roger Whittaker. And yes, I can see a few of you going "What the hell?", but it was the record her family listened to every year at Christmas, so I understand the memories that go along with listening to 'Darcy the dragon."

Alas, I wasn't smart enough to pack my favourite Christmas CD - The Bells of Dublin by The Chieftains. I have so many Chieftains CD and I had to make some choices when we moved up here. I didn't want to add it to my iPod, but didn't want to bring up the CD because we were desperate for space (we brought up no CDs at all). So it stayed behind.

And yet I find myself craving that CD. I even went to iTunes, figuring if it was there I would drop the $10. It is there, but for unfathomable reasons, only two of the 24 songs are for sale, which is kind of moronic. I've even tried poking around on torrent sites to see if it's there. Ethically I would have no problem downloading it, since I already own it. It's just in storage in St. John's. Alas, as I expected, the Chieftains don't have a whole lot of torrents available online. Good news for the band, I guess. Bad news for me in this case.

Who knows, maybe I'll get lucky in Florida and find a copy. I kind of doubt it, though.

My other bit of musical news is this pretty handy list from The Scope. It's some of the best releases in Newfoundland in 2007. We've been out of the loop musically for so long and I do like supporting Newfoundland artists whenever I can. With no Sean Panting, Colleen Power or Mark Bragg releases this year, I'm kind of at a loss what to get.

Having looked at the list, theFeast of Cohen: Live is the one I want the most. That would be followed by The Coast Guard, Chris Picco, Sherry Ryan and, of course, The Wonderful Grand Band re-release. The Fables and Patrick Canning are maybes. And hey, if anyone else has a recommendation, I'm all ears.

Granted, this is all far too late for Christmas. But I do have a birthday next month....

Last Five
1. Presentation cheque - Sean Panting
2. The littlest birds - The Be Good Tanyas*
3. Cloud on my tongue - Tori Amos
4. Rene and Margritee - Paul Simon
5. Sea lion woman - Feist

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Not only am I a townie bastard, but I'm also an east end snot. Which means short of being born and raised in downtown St. John's, you'll likely be hard pressed to find a more hardcore townie than myself. That means if you're not from town, you're subject to mocking.

In recent years I've had to tone this down. Alas, my wife is from Mount Pearl. And while she tolerated a certain amount of ribbing early in our relationship I soon became wise to the fact that continually mocking the general uselessness of the place where she was raised was not going to be good for my long term health, let alone the long term health of our relationship.

So while I did the sensible thing and stayed away from Mount Pearl most of my life, obviously that's changed in recent years. I remember for the first six months or so we were going out Cathy would constantly have to give me directions because I had no clue on how to get around the place.

But once I started spending more time out there, especially during the summer, I began to notice other things. Such as, well, let's be honest here, the smell. St. John's is hardly exempt for the pungent smell of manure that comes from farms at that end of the town, but Mount Pearl certainly does seem to get the full force of it. I guess if you live out there long enough, you get used to it. I never did, though. Even last summer, when the wind was blowing towards Cathy's parents' house, you could certainly get a full blast of it that could ruin a nice day outside.

So this story caught my eye. The City of St. John's is looking at developing land at the old Sprung Greenhouse site. And a local farmer is warning that when you build a major new subdivision that near farms that you're going to have problems with odours. He's suggesting a buffer might be a good idea.

Here's my thing. I have no problem with the new subdivision being built there. But let's be honest. Screw the buffer zone. It's a subdivision next to farm land. It won't make a damn bit of difference. I think every single person who buys a house in that subdivision, whether it's new or off an owner years from now, has to sign a waiver acknowledging they're buying a house near a farm and that there are going to be times it reeks. I don't want to read any stories five years from now from some whinny home owner about how they didn't think the smell was going to be this bad or they're worried about the health of their kids with that smell.

You buy a house there, you don't get to make trouble for the farmers They were there first. I'm sure they're under enough pressure to sell their land to developers. You buy a house there, you buy the smell as well. Deal with it.

The first one who complains about the smell gets a smack to the head. Seriously. Smacks in the in the head for all who complain about the obvious. I'll give credit to people in the Pearl for that much. At least most of them never complain about the smell.

I did. But then again, I was smart enough to not live downwind from a farm....

Last Five
1. That's entertainment - The Jam
2. Soloman's Row - Sean Panting*
3. Tickets to what you need - Badly Drawn Boy
4. Night - Bruce Springsteen
5. Real long distance - Josh Ritter

Monday, December 10, 2007

Small freak outs

I got a jolt to the system this weekend when I found out a friend of mine is separating from her husband. Ordinarily I probably wouldn't talk about such deeply personal things on this blog, but considering she announced it on Facebook (I understand the reasoning for it, but that's still a bit weird) and put it up on her blog, I think the cat's out of the bag.

Besides, they're both handling the split about as well as you can for such a thing. There are no kids involved and they're working very hard to make sure they remain friends at the end of it. Some might roll their eyes, but knowing her (and to a lesser degree her husband) I think its imminently doable.

So why mention it at all? Well, this is the second marriage I've seen break-up this fall. I'm not mentioning much about the other one because I don't know how common knowledge it is. But that's two in a couple of months. So now I'm in slightly freaked-out territory. Because they're my friends and I worry about them and want to make sure their all right, but since I live in Nunavut, that's a little hard. And hey, I'm as superstitious as the next person and these things apparently come in threes. So I've been emailing some friends making sure everything is all right with their marriages.

Plus, these kinds of things always make you think. It's one thing to read the statistics about divorce rates, it's something else when it starts happening to friends. It's not like I haven't gone through divorce before. My parents split when I was 19. I have an aunt and an uncle who each got divorced. And yet, I'm still feeling a touch freaked.

I think there are a couple of factors/theories. First, this is apparently the next life phase in adulthood. The first was watching my circle of friends get married. Most of them now are. Some aren't, like Dups, but he's "special." Take that whatever way you want. Besides, he's back in Sri Lanka visiting family. It's even money whether or not his parents have a wife waiting for him.

So with the majority of them married, a bunch of them have also started having kids. And as most of my friends are now in their 30s, we're starting to get the first few divorces. I hope there won't be any more, but I suspect that's probably wishful thinking. When I start getting into the second marriages, then I'm going to feel old. Well, older.

I think the other shock is that I'm a married man now. When my parents split, I was 19 years old. Their split wasn't a shock to the system. They had been fighting for a few years at that point. Plus they married quite young (mom was 19, dad was 21). So to a certain degree I was almost waiting for it to happen.

But I'm married now. And every time I see these smart people I know and care about, people I consider to be very capable and caring, and their marriage didn't work out, it makes me freak a bit. The thought runs through my mind, "if they couldn't last, well, what about us?"

And before this rumour gets any traction, myself and Cathy are fine. We're happy and still very much in love. We have the odd racket, but hey, welcome to marriage. I have no reason to believe that we won't be toasting champagne at our 50th wedding anniversary. And I don't know the circumstances that lead to my friends' marriages ending. All I can know is that things are fine with us.

Still, it gives me some pause. And is a reminder. Marriages are work. Hopefully you don't have to work too hard and everything runs smoothly and well. I thought I learned that lesson already, but it never hurts to have a reminder.

Anyway, I hope my friends are all right and that everything works out in the end.

Last Five
1. Bright sunny south - Allison Krauss and Union Station
2. Lawyers, guns and money - Warren Zevon*
3. Dumbo sun - Tracy Bonham
4. Take it back - Barenaked Ladies
5. Invincible - OK Go

Sunday, December 09, 2007


You know, sometimes all it takes to make me happy is a Peter David Star Trek novel. I don't read many Trek novels because they're far to hit and miss for me. But I always give David's books a chance, because he's a damn clever writer, always finds a way to inject a bit of humour into things and manages to break out some good ideas. I get one of his Trek books and I'm lucky if I can make it last 24 hours.

The latest one, "Before Dishonor" had, among other thing, The Enterprise, Picard and Crusher sleeping together, Seven of Nine, Janeway, a Q, Spock and a scary update of the Borg. Also toss in for good measure The Doomsday Machine from the original Trek series and from a book David wrote probably about 15 years ago called "Vendetta", which remains probably his best Trek novel.

I don't pretend this is a great work of literature. It's not. But it's still a hell of a lot of fun and pretty much exactly what I was in the mood for. And hey, a major Trek character was killed. I'm not saying which one, and there's certainly a loophole to bring that character back, but it was still interesting to see that character bite the dust.

I'm not saying rush out and pick up the book. Unless you're a bit of a diehard Trek fan, you're probably going to be hard pressed to figure out what's going on at various stages. But since I have a fondness for Trek, even when the series was stinking up the joint, it was a nice read for me.

Anyway, Cathy will be happy that I will now come back up for air. All I've been doing since I got the book in the mail yesterday has been reading it. Now I can get back to vacation planning and last minute details.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday night things

1. I've never been sure if anyone at work reads my blog. No one has ever mentioned it to me, and I haven't told anyone I do it. Still, it's a small town, so I kind of figured it was inevitable, but I enjoy living in that state of denial.

And yet, two things kind of killed that idea today. One was when one of my co-workers forwarded the "What Kind of Geek Are you?" So that was weird. The other happened at the staff Christmas party this evening, when one of them referred to me as a "real townie bastard." Which is a bit too much of a distinctive phrase to be a fluke. I might have said it around the office once or twice, but I kind of doubt it.

So yeah, I'd say the cat's out of the bag. But no one is complaining to me, so hopefully all is good.

2. And yeah, this is also work related and I said I don't do that sort of thing, but at the Christmas party they gave out staff awards. And I won one. Not particularly sure I'm proud of it, though. I won "Most Sarcastic" staffer.

Now, my friends are laughing their asses off and will state that this is pretty damn obvious. And hell, a few years ago, I certainly would have agreed. I have a notion in my Grade 5 report card from a teacher worried that I was too sarcastic and tended to say mean things to my classmates. This continued into university, where I swear to God, friends would provoke me just to get one of my full-blown bitter sarcastic rantings. Because hey, I might be sarcastic, but I was usually entertaining.

I was like this right up until the moment I met Cathy. And not to get all mushy, but friends say that after we started seeing each other, I mellowed out a lot. That I wasn't nearly as sarcastic. And all agreed that while it killed some of my entertainment value, that was probably a good thing.

And yet, here I am winning staff awards for sarcasm. I'd be depressed by this, but I know it's an award meant it jest. It's also a nice reminder that no matter how much you think you're improving, there's always more work to be done.

3. However, having said all that, allow me to once again express my delight that the Eastern School District plans to close Booth Memorial, my old high school. If I might make a suggestion, if you just skip along the consulting process and agree to close it at the end of the '08 school year, that would be swell. It also happens to be my 20th anniversary of leaving the hell hole and while I plan on being in Italy as to ably avoid any potential reunion that might be percolating, I would make a side trip to St. John's on the way back to Iqaluit if I could be the one who gets to flip the switch when it comes to blowing the place up.

So if someone in the Williams government could make that happen, I'd appreciate it. I'll even say nice things about you and call VOCM open line shows and sing your praises. Thanks.

(Yeah, that sarcasm thing is going to be hard to kick).

4. Speaking of demolishing things, I see the Janeway is about to go ka-boom. Fortunately that I was only in the hospital once, and that was when I was a week old so it's not like I have any real memories of the place. But I lived near it for a good chunk of my life and it occupies a space in my brain. It's a landmark to me and I'll kind of miss it, even though it serves no purpose just standing there empty and useless.

I imagine Cathy might have a different reaction. She spent a lot of days in that hospital as a kid. I don't know if she'll be happy or sad to see it go.

5. I say this every year when the government of the day announces these bloody rebates. Take the $11 million and funnel it towards energy efficiency tax breaks. Put in better insulation, get a break on your income tax. Put in new windows, get a tax break. That sort of thing. Makes more sense than giving someone a check for a couple of hundred dollars. I understand politically it makes sense, because nothing helps the popularity like handing out checks. But hey, if you have a popularity at a staggering 82 per cent and have just won a massive, crushing majority, maybe you can entertain the radical notion of doing something wiser and more long term with that $11 million than handing out checks that are only marginally useful.

Last Five
1. You are what you love - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
2. Bloody well right - Supertramp
3. Better be home soon (live) - Crowded House
4. Get behind the mule (live) - Tom Waits*
5. I am a rock - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Which geek are you?

Scott Johnson created this poster, which I think is pretty funny. You can actually order it for the geek in your life if you want. I'm still trying to decide which geek I am. I'm sure Cathy will let me know once she sees the poster. I think I'm a combination Apple/comics/photo/TV geek.

Last Five
1. 15 Step - Radiohead
2. Mutiny, I promise you - The New Pornographers
3. Neighbourhood #2 - The Arcade Fire
4. Beyond the horizon - Bob Dylan
5. Grace, too - The Tragically Hip*

Law & Order & Batman

I already have too many t-shirts. Or so I have been told. And I definitely have way too many geeky/weird t-shirts. And really, there does come a point where perhaps, just perhaps, 37-year-old men shouldn't be wearing comic book related t-shirts. Sad, but true.

Still, this t-shirt found on Threadless amused me a lot. Although I do agree with one commentator on another site who said it should have "Batman: Year One" underneath the image. But I suspect DC's copyright cops would be all over that one.

Still, my favourite one is the one below. I can't even find the site that sells the t-shirt. Just this blog (and Valerie's blog is worth reading if you like comic books at all) that put up the image.

It's pretty funny stuff. Even Cathy laughed at it, and she's not exactly the world's biggest comic book fan.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The difference a couple of years make

Ah, the difference a couple of years makes. Two years ago today I started my current job. It was just as a casual and I was told not to get my hopes up about it leading into anything permanent. In fact, several months later I was mere hours away from unemployment. If it wasn't for a slightly surreal situation developing (in Nunavut? Nooooo) I would have been out from a job I kind of like. It's certainly less stressful than the old one.

It's interesting that I've been reading a couple of local journalists who are getting stressed out about their jobs. I can empathize. I truly can. Towards the end of my last job, it was getting to the point that I wanted to smash the phone every time it rang. I didn't want to interview people, which kind of makes it hard to do your job when you're a journalist. I was at that level of burnout. It was kind of terrifying, really.

I still liked the writing, you understand. I was just done with the whole talking to humans and trying to pry information from them thing.

So two years ago I go through a career change. Probably one of the best things that ever happened to me in terms of peace of mind. Let's put it this way, I got a freelance check in mail today. A former editor of mine asked me to do a couple of travel stories for her paper and I did stories about San Francisco and the Pacific Coast Highway. The money wasn't a lot, a couple of hundred bucks. But three years ago, that would have been a big deal. That would have been a lot of money and would have helped myself and Cathy with the bills when we were trying to make ends meet on Bond Street on an associate editor's salary and her substitute teaching and tutoring work.

Today's reaction was more of a "Cool. That's nice. A bit of extra money when we go to Florida."

It kind of boggles my mind when I think about how much our fortunes have changed the past couple of years. Nunavut has been very good to us.

And yet, every now and then we think about when we might leave and head down south. This is not unusual, by the way. Plenty of people come to Nunavut. On the extremes are the people who literally last only a few months. This isn't the place for them. Nothing wrong with that. I'm sure there are plenty of places in the world that aren't for me. But once they realize they're mistake, they leave on the first available jet plane.

On the other end of the spectrum are the people who move here and deeply fall for the place. The lifers. The ones who buy a house and have no intention of leaving until they retire, and even then, maybe not. Claire is a prime example of that.

But the vast majority of people are up here for a few years. And then for any number of reasons they head back south. I always figured that's where myself and Cathy fall. I don't talk about it much. You have to be careful how you talk in public about your reasons for coming here and leaving. There are certainly people who don't like hearing you're only up here to pay off your mortgage and then you're getting out of here as quickly as you can. That's not a great way to make friends. It will at the very least earn you dirty looks.

So yeah, the question for myself and Cathy has always been when we would go. We still have no idea. I suspect we're here until 2009 at least. I'm inclined to stay longer if we can swing it, but we shall see.

But the thing is, we're both secure up here right now. And yeah, there are things down south we wish we had up here. But life, on the whole, is pretty good. And when you see how hard the Globe and Mail has been beating the drums the past few days that something wicked this way comes in terms of the economy, it makes both of us wonder why we would even think about going anywhere else.

This is a bit of a ramble, but it's always useful to remind yourself how good you have it, rather than pining for something else that likely isn't nearly as good as you think.

Last Five
1. Ghost dance - Robbie Robertson
2. Rockin' the suburbs - Ben Folds
3. I'm so tired - The Beatles
4. Streams of whiskey - The Pogues*
5. What do you do with a BA in English? - Avenue Q OST

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just say no

I had another post in mind this evening. One on how long people last up north, job security and the impact that a wobbily economy might have on these decisions. And I'll likely write it tomorrow or Thursday.

But instead I read this story. Quite by accident since obviously I wouldn't care about Hannah Montana. And that's fine. I'm not the demographic that should care about that type of performer. And I rarely listen to the radio anymore. I'm perfectly content to listen to my iPod.

But then I read the story and felt the urge to smack someone. The problem is, I don't know who I want to smack more. Do I want to smack whinny kids demanding tickets to a sub-standard pop star that odds are no one will remember in five years? Cathy is telling me that I shouldn't, pointing out that she didn't really understand why she couldn't have the Cabbage Patch doll she wanted when she was a kid. She wasn't really grasping the concept of money and scarcity. Many of these kids probably don't either.

Fair point, I guess.

So my initial reaction of wanting to smack the crap out of the parents was pretty much right on the mark. If you're an average parent, not a rich one, but just an average one, and you're thinking about $1,200 a ticket on this show because your kids are whining and demanding tickets then you're an idiot. I understanding not wanting to disappoint your kids, but you know what, at some point you're going to. So why not start now by depriving them of $1,200 tickets.

Cathy, who is obviously far wiser in the way of dealing with children than I am, and is used to disappointing kids unrealistic desires on a regular basis, says this is when you have The Talk with them. About how you can't always have what you want. That you have to be realistic in what you ask for. And if they kick up a racket, then you discipline them

But you do not cave in and buy them $1,200 tickets. That's insane. You're insane. And I take some comfort that in the comments section of the story most people are agreeing with me.

I don't know much about kids, but I know that much.

Last Five
1. The ascent of Stan - Ben Folds
2. Spring will spawn - Sean Panting
3. So cruel - U2*
4. Wayfaring stranger - Neko Case
5. Kiss that frog (Live) - Peter Gabriel

Monday, December 03, 2007

Slow days

So, I'm not dead. I'm just not feeling particularly wordy. It happens from time to time. For awhile I was procrastinating on writing the blog because I was writing the book. Then I used the blog to procrastinate on writing the book. Now I think I'm using work to procrastinate on writing either one. Or something. I just haven't had a lot to say the last few days on the blog.

As for the book, well, I suspect I received suitable motivation from Cathy the other day when she asked when was the last time I wrote something. When I mentioned it had been a while, she made a suitable disappointed noise. I need to get this finished before I go on vacation. Which is now only 16 or so days away. So the clock is ticking.

As for the vacation, this evening was spent taking care of a few more details - getting the cancellation insurance for the cruise in case of weather, printing off info on plane tickets, maps, car reservations and hotel reservations. We not only need copies for ourselves, but we'll also send copies to Cathy's folks, just in case something goes wrong.

I think we'll also be preparing ritual sacrifices to make sure we have good weather all the way to Florida. We're not so concerned about the return trip. It won't be the end of the world if we get stuck in Ottawa an extra couple of days. But we desperately want to make sure we get out on time.

Anyway, that's all I have for this evening. There hasn't even been any news that caught my eye in the last couple of days, except for this lovely piece of terror. Here's hoping I never do anything to piss of the US government, because apparently living in Canada won't protect me if they really want me.

Something more entertaining tomorrow.

Last Five
1. The Complex - Blue Man Group
2. One more night - Stars
3. Uptown girl - Billy Joel
4. M&Ms - Blink 182
5. In California - Neko Case*